A thick blanket of fog descended upon the penultimate stage of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge this morning, delaying the start of the motorbike race by 2 hours and shortening the car special to 173 kilometres. Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna) claimed his second win in the motorbike category, while Pablo Quintanilla, who started the stage in second place overall, is out of contention after his Honda gave up the ghost 250 km into the special. His teammate Adrien Van Beveren still tops the leader board. Sébastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) took the car stage. Yazeed Al Rajhi (Overdrive Racing) is more than 10 minutes clear of Martin Prokop (Benzina Orlen Team) and 20 minutes ahead of Denis Krotov (X-raid Mini JCW) in the overall.
FIM: VAN BEVEREN STILL IN COMMAND
Luciano Benavides (Husqvarna Factory Racing) grabbed his second stage win after dominating the special from A to Z. Adrien Van Beveren (Monster Energy Honda), who seized the overall lead two days ago, finished second on the day at 3′22″. Ross Branch (Hero MotoSports) came in third at 4′06″. Toby Price (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) finished seventh at 9′01″ after opening the way this morning. Benavides surged up the general standings, where he is now the Frenchman's closest pursuer at 2′58″. The Chilean Nacho Cornejo has finally placed his Honda on the provisional podium, 6′14″ behind his teammate. Ross Branch (Hero MotoSports) is fourth at 6′38″. Skyler Howes (Husqvarna Factory Racing) sits in fifth place at 7′16″. Toby Price slipped down to sixth at 8′35″. Ricky Brabec (Monster Energy Honda) is seventh at 8′52″. Less than 9 minutes separate the top 7. Benavides will be starting tomorrow's stage right before the overall leader —an unenviable position for the Argentinian to find himself in. However, other riders are in with a shout too, with the next five competitors in the standings a mere 6 to 9 minutes off the pace. The race is still wide open among the top 7, who will settle their differences in a finale stretching for more than 200 kilometres. In the Rally2 category, Paolo Lucci, the hegemon of the race since day one, conceded buckets of time following a crash with 20 kilometres to go. The BAS World KTM Racing rider surrendered the lead to Jean-Loup Lepan (Duust Diverse Racing) and is now almost 11 minutes down. In the quad race, Abdulaziz Ahli (Abu Dhabi Team) picked up his third victory by over 16 minutes on Laisvydas Kancius (AG Dakar School), padding his overall lead and all but wrapping up his third title in a row.
FIA: AL RAJHI LOCKS ONTO MAIDEN WIN
Sébastien Loeb (Bahrain Raid Xtreme) ended his drought in the ADDC, while Yazeed Al Rajhi inherited the overall lead following Nasser Al Attiyah's withdrawal. The Saudi finished sixth today, ahead of his two closest rivals, Martin Prokop (Benzina Orlen Team) and Denis Krotov (X-raid Mini JCW). The Overdrive Racing driver pushed his advantage to over 10 minutes on the Czech and more than twice as much on the Mini driver. Al Rajhi seems poised to take his first ADDC title tomorrow. Seth Quintero (Red Bull Off-Road Jr Team USA) claimed the T3 special ahead of João Ferreira (X-raid supported by Yamaha). Seth Quintero still tops the ranking with over half an hour to spare over his teammate Austin Jones. In the T4 race, the ongoing duel between Rokas Baciuška (Red Bull Can-Am Factory) and Pau Navarro (FN Speed) ended in another victory for the Lithuanian, who now leads the Catalan by 23′30″. Sébastien Loeb could expand his championship lead if he makes it to the finish tomorrow. Another win (5 points) would bring his ADDC tally to 14 points, bringing him to 101 points to Nasser Al Attiyah's 85 in the championship. No matter how tomorrow plays out, and just like last year, the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge will have been a roller-coaster for the two stars of the W2RC.